As alternate-universe incarnations of the Spider-Man persona emerged in the Edge of Spider-Verse storyline, Gwen Stacy as Spider-Woman quickly became so popular she was given her own series, due February 2015. What was it about this character over the other incarnations that so immediately connected with readers?
Firstly, the character design was flawlessly executed. Robbi Rodriguez‘s monochromatic suit has black pants bleeding into a white hoodie, the web-pattern inside the hood and under the arms. Gwen stands out against everything else on the page, no matter what is happening. The costume is also very asexual, particularly when compared to how most female super-heroines are dressed. It could be almost anyone under the hood, male or female.
Jason Latour‘s writing hits every reference point of the Spider-Man narrative and gives them a unique enough a twist to make it fresh. A bullied Peter Parker, transforming into The Lizard in an attempt to be like Spider-Woman and dying in the ensuing battle, is pitch perfect.
This role reversal, Gwen as hero and Peter as the victim she couldn’t save, fits perfectly with the current crop of female-led comic titles. What is particularly appealing about her, however, is the very fact that she exists in an alternate universe. This is a character who can push forward with her own narrative without the constraints of the larger Marvel universe. The new female Thor and Sam Wilson taking the shield in All-New Captain America are commendable and sincere attempts to have major titles focused on characters who aren’t white males, but these changes feel inevitably temporary. It’s inevitable that Odinson will again wield the hammer, and Steve Rogers will be once more infused with super-serum to regain his powers and title.
Gwen Stacy of Earth-65, however, isn’t replacing anyone. In her timeline, she is Spider-Woman and Peter Parker is dead. Gwen is a change to the traditional comic narrative we are often presented with but, unlike most changes that have no permanence, Gwen could well be here to stay.